The incredibly prolific Ron Sullivan a/k/a "Henri Pachard", who sadly passed away little over a year ago, got very little respect for this endearing little number, which got lost in the shuffle around the same time he made more esteemed explicit epics such as GETTING PERSONAL, LILITH UNLEASHED, THE ODDEST COUPLE and his award-showered four part mini series TABOO American STYLE. Opening to lukewarm reviews from most major publications (at best, Hustler accorded it their dreaded "totally limp" rating), SHOWDOWN may be miles removed from being a masterpiece but I would like to argue that it manages to tell a sweet simple story with engaging performances from all involved. Besides, it comes with some of the more genuinely erotic sex scenes the intimate industry has yielded. Not necessarily explicit, mind you, though satisfyingly so, or particularly unusual even, but tinged with that intangible quality that turns hardcore into a heartfelt experience.
Serviceable screenplay by Sullivan and T.J. Lambert, who wrote SLIP INTO SILK for Mike Stryker and SOME KIND OF WOMAN (probably his best work) for the Williams brothers, scrutinizes the daily dalliances at the Bar None Dude Ranch, an out of the way desert whorehouse run by maternal Madame Crystal (Sharon Mitchell). Customers coming few and far between, her girls are getting restless. Pleasingly pudgy this early in her carnal career, Shanna McCullough wrestles perky Patti Petite in the muddy corral. Petite was definitely more of a video vixen so any 35mm appearance counts as considerable bonus, plus she actually has a proper part to play here, which she does well. Inside, gorgeous Gina Carrera yearns for release, which comes courtesy of strap-on wielding Nina Hartley. Mere words can't do justice to this mesmerizing encounter, with Sullivan making expert use of a rocking chair and water-filled basin increasing the rustic as well as hot 'n' humid atmosphere. Crystal has her own way of keeping the chief of police (Nick Random) happy so he won't put her out of business. Middle-aged and balding, Random was frequently and convincingly cast as authority figures, such as in Ned Morehead's DESPERATE WOMEN as the prison warden or MAD ABOUT YOU, running an asylum. Unfortunately, Sheriff Zeke (an entertaining Sullivan cameo) is not so easily swayed, especially not now that he has lovelorn redneck Clem (Joey Silvera) trying to "rescue" wife Jennie (Carrera) in tow.
A trio of city slickers arrive at the ranch, mistakenly assuming their only horseplay will involve actual horses ! While two of them (Jamie Gillis and Herschel Savage) quickly succumb to the amorous advances of the sex-starved strumpets, the uptight Jack (Mike Horner) insists sticking to his schedule of healthy outdoor activity. Shanna has a really hot scene with Jamie in a hammock to the haunting accompaniment of the whistling wind. Jennie's dilemma whether to pursue the lay for pay lifestyle or reunite with her much-missed man provides the emotional core, climaxing (so to speak) with an atmospherically lit nighttime ladies' liaison between Mitch and Carrera by means of goodbye. Credit where it's due, rightfully revered lensmeister Ron Dorfman a/k/a "Art Ben" did a splendid job here, as evidenced by the notoriously tricky to photograph "Ms." Sharon Mitchell's awesome appearance on this occasion. Compare the way she looks - or rather, be kind and don't - to those once compellingly angular features nowadays irrevocably ravaged by botched plastic surgery. Trivia note : this unheralded gem marked the first production credit for actor Paul Thomas, a capacity in which he would continue for several of Sullivan's subsequent shot on video efforts, prior to his successful career change to the other side of the camera with 1987's ROBO FOX.
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